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Sweet Treat – Low Cal Snack

When  I was a child, as a treat, my mother would take me to McDonald’s and allow me to have a strawberry sundae with nuts on top. It was my favorite.

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But now that I’m older and wiser, I know it’s not the best choice when it comes to eating healthy.

With a little creativity, I found a healthier alternative that tasted just as good, but had fewer calories and more nutrition – Greek yogurt with fruit on the bottom sprinkled with chopped nuts.

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The Greek Yogurt I purchase is exactly 100 calories (make sure the one you choose has at least 10 grams of protein in it), then I add about a 1/4 ounce of peanuts (about 10 whole nuts) chopped or whole, a little goes a long way.

For something so easy, this snack provides a great flavor and satisfies hunger. Not to mention, it’s a guilt-free sweet treat during the work day or after a meal.

According to the USDA the health benefits include of yogurt include:

  • improved bone health
  • may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes
  • may lower blood pressure
  • may assist in improving/maintaining gut health

When it comes to nuts…although they tend to be higher in calories, research shows they do NOT contribute to obesity and may even aid in weight loss.

Additionally nuts are part of a healthy lifestyle because research has shown benefits when it comes to:

  • lowering incidence of heart disease
  • lowering the risk of gallstones
  • positively effecting hypertension, cancer, and inflammation
  • lowering cholesterol
  • lowering oxidative stress and inflammation

With all of these great benefits, how could you say no to this delightful snack?

Approximate nutrition analysis:

Calories: 140, total fat 4g, Cholesterol <5mg, Sodium 70mg, Total carb 14g, Protein 11g

Buen Provecho!

Mandy Seay is a registered and licensed dietitian and certified diabetes educator. She works as a nutrition consultant in Austin, Texas, specializing in diabetes, weight loss, lipid control, and preventative nutrition. For more health articles and nutrition information, check out Mandy’s website Nutritionistics.

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Salad – The Healthy Way

Q: We have a large salad bar at the work cafeteria that I would like to take advantage of for lunch (especially during the summer).  I’m trying to lose weight and control blood sugar.  Could you give me some tips on what to choose and what to steer clear on at the salad bar?

A: Salads are a great way to get in your daily fruit and vegetable intake. These foods and are wonderful sources of vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients (plant chemicals that may do some powerful things like prevent cancer and reduce aging). However, there are some items on salad bars that can make a salad just as high in calories and fat as a trip to a fast food restaurant.

When putting it all together, think of the healthy plate – 1/4 of the plate protein, 1/4 of the plate carbohydrate (or starch), and the rest non-starchy vegetables.

When choosing your vegetables, go for brightly colored ones like spinach, carrots, peppers, broccoli, etc. The darker the vegetable – the more nutrition it has.

Add some protein like a hard-boiled egg, lean meat or reduced fat cheese.

Lastly add a couple of carbohydrates – like beans or fruit. If yogurt is an option, add that as a side.

You may have the option of adding things like rich cheeses, nuts, seeds, avocado, olives or croutons to your salad. Many of these are healthy items, but they are high in fat, so put no more than a total of 1-2 teaspoons of these items in your salad.

Most salad dressings are oil based. Oil is a fat, so eating these in moderation is best. At most salad bars, the types of dressings will be limited. If you want to keep calories very low, try these instead:

  • lemon juice
  • lime juice
  • salsa
  • low-fat cottage cheese
  • Red wine vinaigrette

If none of these seem appetizing to you, consider using a vinaigrette or low-fat, low-carbohydrate dressing.If no labels are around for you to know how many calories or fat are in the dressing, you can probably assume that 1 tablespoon of a “light” dressing has 45 calories and 5 grams of fat in it.

The high calorie, high fat dressings that you usually want to avoid or eat very small portions of are creamy dressings like Ranch or Caesar (these can contain around 14 grams of fat per tablespoon).

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My personal favorite is a salad made with a bed of spinach, topped with egg, garbanzo beans, red onion, feta cheese, carrots, pepper, and maybe a few low-calorie croutons. All of the alternative salad dressings listed above I have tried and are surprisingly satisfactory. My top 2 favorites are cottage cheese and red wine vinaigrette depending on my mood.

Buen Provecho!

Mandy Seay is a registered and licensed dietitian. She works as a nutrition consultant in Austin, Texas specializing in diabetes, weight loss, lipid control and preventative nutrition. For more health articles and nutrition information, check out Mandy’s website Nutritionistics.

Photo by: Mark J. Sebastian

Sleep – More Important than You Know

Photo by: Mark J. Sebastian

In today’s society, most people are in a rush or are working on a time crunch so the one activity that is so important to our health, sleep, is often neglected. Do you get enough sleep? Do you know how much is enough? Research is finding that not getting enough sleep can negatively affect your health in more ways than one.

Sleep Research

Scientific evidence shows that adults need at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night to be well rested. The average adult sleeps fewer than 7 hours a night. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “More than 1/3 of adults report daytime sleepiness so severe that it interferes with work, driving, and social functioning at least a few days each month.” As for children, a lack of sleep can directly affect their health, behavior and development. (They need between 9 and 10 hours a night!)

Sufficient Sleep Benefits

Recent studies reveal that people who are well rested have:

  • Better creative problem solving skills
  • Improved memory, insight and learning
  • Much needed rest for the heart and vascular system
  • Proper release of growth hormones
  • Boosted muscle mass and repair of cells and tissues
  • Normal release of sex hormones which contribute to puberty and fertility

Sleep Deprivation Risks

Research shows that lack of sleep:

  • Slows the thinking process
  • Makes focusing and paying attention difficult
  • Brings on confusion easily
  • Causes faulty decision-making
  • Increases risk taking
  • Slows reaction time
  • Causes irritability or unhappiness
  • Poses a greater risk of developing depression
  • Stresses the body and may trigger the release of more adrenaline, cortisol and other stress hormones
  • May trigger the production of proteins thought to play a role in heart disease
  • Reduces the body’s ability to fight off common infections

How Sleep and Weight are Related

Sleep is also a powerful regulator of appetite, energy use and weight control. During sleep, the body’s production of the appetite suppressor leptin increases and the appetite stimulant, grhelin decreases. Research finds that the less people sleep (five hours or less), the more likely they are to be overweight or obese and prefer eating higher calorie foods since their food regulation has been altered.

Other research has found that when healthy volunteers slept only 4 hours a night for 6 nights in a row, their insulin and blood sugar levels matched those seen in people who were in the developmental stages of diabetes.

Another study found that women who slept less than 7 hours a night were more likely to develop diabetes than those who slept between 7 and 8 hours a night.

Sleeping in late on the weekends will not completely fix your deprivation; it certainly can’t make up for your poor performance earlier in the week. Daytime naps (up to an hour) can partially make up for missed sleep and improve alertness, mood and work, but they don’t substitute for a good night’s sleep. Often times, a nap lasting more than 20 minutes can cause grogginess and difficulty regaining focus. Late afternoon naps can make sleeping in the evening difficult.

The Solution

  • Go to bed earlier
  • Stick to a sleep schedule. Being consistent helps regulate your body’s sleep/wake cycle
  • Don’t go to bed hungry or stuffed
  • Include exercise in your daily routine. Exercise promotes better and faster sleep. Be careful not to exercise too close to your normal bedtime as this can sometimes cause difficulty in falling asleep
  • Manage stress
  • Avoid caffeine and nicotine before bed
  • If you find that your mind is racing before bed, start a winding down ritual before you go to bed – try reading, take a warm bath or shower, meditating or write down anything on your mind that you might need to take care of first thing the next day
  • Avoid using any electronic media like the tv or computer as the light can interfere with  your body’s cues to sleep
  • Create a comfortable sleep space. Make sure the temperature is right, it’s dark, the pillows and sheets are comfortable and that you have enough room. Quality is just as important as quantity of sleep

To find out more about sleep deprivation, myths, different types of sleep disorders and other reliable resources, check out Your Guide to Healthy Sleep, from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Mandy Seay is a registered and licensed dietitian. She works as a nutrition consultant in Austin, Texas specializing in diabetes, weight loss, lipid control and preventative nutrition. For more health articles and nutrition information, check out Mandy’s website Nutritionistics.

***Mandy is not affiliated with any food products listed in her blog, nor is she being compensated, in any way, by any food company.

Night Eating and Weight

Night-time eating is a bit of a confusing subject. Perhaps you’ve heard eating at night will cause you to gain weight. The answer is….maybe. Depending on what you’re eating and if your sleep is not regular or sufficient, yes, you could.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest reported on a study where test subjects who ate between 11 pm and 5 am on at least one night gained, on average, 14 pounds over the next three years. The subjects who didn’t eat between those hours, only gained 4 pounds over the following three years.

The subjects who ate late at night were consuming 300 more calories than those who were not late eaters.

Also, if you’re up late at night eating, this might also mean you aren’t getting adequate sleep. Less sleep can also mean more calories and more weight.

The Harvard School of Health states that there are numerous studies showing a link between insufficient sleep and obesity. Some studies show that those who sleep less, tend to eat late at night and consume an average of 550 extra calories between 10pm and 4am.

Sleep deprivation has effects on brain activity and may change reward and impulse control. Other research has found that lack of sleep raises blood sugar, makes insulin less effective, and boosts the hormone (ghrelin) that signals hunger.

If you get enough sleep and manage your calories, you shouldn’t have a problem with what time of day you eat. So the thought that “eating after 7pm will cause you to gain weight” is untrue….unless you’re eating more calories than you should. Eating extra calories at ANY time, day or night, will result in weight gain.

Bottom line: Get adequate sleep and keep your calories under control. If night-time is a trigger to eat when you are alone, find other things to keep you occupied or talk with a therapist.

For more information on sleep deprivation and health see Sleep-More Important Than You Know.

Mandy Seay is a registered and licensed dietitian and certified diabetes educator. She works as a nutrition consultant in Austin, Texas, specializing in diabetes, weight loss, lipid control, and preventative nutrition. For more health articles and nutrition information, check out Mandy’s website Nutritionistics.

Cleansing and Detoxing

Everyone is talking about detoxes and cleanses. Many people see cleanses and detoxes as a renewing and rejuvenation process that can “reset” the body, help them clean out the “junk” in their body, or jump-start their next diet.

However, detoxes and cleanses (usually characterized by fasting or consuming herbs, a restricted diet, or other unusual practices) have not been scientifically proven as being beneficial. In some cases, detoxes can cause more harm than good.

Long term effects could lead to nutrient deficiencies, muscle breakdown, blood-sugar problems, and frequent liquid bowel movements. By depriving the body of what it needs, you’ll actually reduce the body’s ability to fight off infection and manage inflammation. In fact, you’re making your body struggle to function properly.

In addition, you’ll are almost guaranteed to experience fatigue, irritability, headache, aches and pains, etc. This is a not a sign of good health – this is your body signaling that something is wrong.

Your liver, skin, lungs, and kidneys are very effective at removing toxins and impurities from the body; that is their function.

If you feel that you truly need a major change, instead do something that is healthy for your body. I challenge you to spend a week eating nothing but fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, tofu, and lean dairy. Just make sure you are keeping things balanced. Eat as much as you like of these foods and see how you feel. I guarantee you’ll feel better than any cleanse or detox will leave you feeling.

If you can, extend your “healthy cleanse” to 2-3 weeks, by then you will have developed new healthy habits and maybe you’ll continue to eat that way….who knows…? Give it a shot!

Buen Provecho!

Mandy Seay is a registered and licensed dietitian. She works as a nutrition consultant in Austin, Texas specializing in diabetes, weight loss, lipid control and preventative nutrition. For more health articles and nutrition information, check out Mandy’s website Nutritionistics.

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